Panerai began making watches in Florence, Italy back in 1860, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that the firm produced its first wristwatch. By then its roots in Florence were as deep as those in Switzerland, where Panerai watches were produced.

The breakthrough for the company was an order for diving watches from the Italian Navy, for whom Panerai had been creating instruments of various types since the turn of the century. With a war coming on, the navy was keen to outfit its elite corps of frogmen with wristwatches.

Featuring a Rolex movement, the limited-edition Panerai Radiomir (only 300 were made) was designed for use by commandos and torpedo riders—frogmen who rode a slow-moving torpedo toward a target before attaching a timed mine to the underside of a ship and then riding away. The watches had a cushion-shaped case, a screw-down crown to keep water out of the movement, and oiled-leather straps that were long enough to be worn on the outside of a diving suit. Given their limited supply and the tough conditions they were subjected to, these watches are very highly prized by collectors today.

The watch took its name, Radiomir, from the luminous material that Panerai first developed in 1910. Made of zinc sulphide and radium bromide, Radiomir allowed the numbers and hands on a watch to be read in dark conditions. It was replaced in 1949 by Luminor, which glows thanks to the presence of tritium, a less-dangerous compound than radium bromide.

Throughout the 1950s and ’60s, Panerai continued to produce wristwatches for the Italian Navy in regular and destro (left-handed) versions. Some watches from this period were known as Trittico watches, thanks to their trio of features, which included a depth gauge.

Panerai also made Kampfschwimmer watches, some with so-called California dials (numbers on the bottom, Roman numerals on the top), for Germany’s only postwar commando unit. And in 1956, Panerai created a large-face Radiomir watch for the Egyptian Navy.

Panerai might have remained a military diving watch in the minds of the public had it not been for Sylvester Stallone, who, in 1995, purchased a Luminor while on location in Italy. Sales of the watches jumped after its debut in Stallone’s “Daylight,” and Sly even had some watches—dubbed Slytech—made with his signature engraved on the back. These he gave as gifts to friends, including fellow action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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Recent News: Panerai Watches

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Panerai Luminor 1950 3 Days Chrono Flyback 44 mm: Top Chrono!
L'Express, February 8th

La montre Luminor 1950 3 Days Chrono Flyback 44 mm de Panerai est le premier chronographe automatique de la marque italienne. Malgré leur petite taille, les montres -et à plus forte raison les chronographes- sont des instruments mécaniques dont la ...Read more

Panerai: Radiomir 1940 3 Days Automatic: SIHH 2016
Men's Journal, February 3rd

For the first time in the Radiomir 1940 collection, the dial of the 3 Days Automatic Acciaio (PAM0065) is offered in white — a rarity in the portfolio. The graphic design maximizes the dial's clarity and legibility, while the peach coloring added to...Read more

Luminor 8 Days set
World Tempus, January 29th

The new Luminor 8 Days Set – available in only 500 examples – contains two watches inspired by models created in the pre-Vendôme (between 1993, the year of the first collection made for the public, and 1997, when Panerai was acquired by Vendôme, part ...Read more

SIHH: Panerai — Radiomir 1940 3 Days GMT Power Reserve Automatic - 45mm
WorldTempus, January 21st

Deux nouveaux calibres automatiques, entièrement développés et fabriqués dans la Manufacture Panerai de Neuchâtel, ont doté de nouvelles fonctions la Radiomir 1940 3 Days GMT Automatic (PAM00627 et PAM00657), équipée du mouvement P.4001, ...Read more

Radiomir 1940 3 Days GMT Power Reserve Automatic - 45mm
World Tempus, January 21st

Two new automatic calibres, completely developed and made in the Panerai Manufacture in Neuchâtel, have added new functions to the Radiomir 1940 3 Days GMT Automatic (PAM00627 and PAM00657) with the P.4001 movement and the Radiomir 1940 3 ...Read more

SIHH 2016 Novelties From Officine Panerai
Haute Time, January 21st

Two new automatic calibres developed from the P.4000 movement: the P.4001 and P.4002, have added new functions with date, GMT and power reserve indicator. Only this last function differentiates the P.4001 calibre from the P.4002: while the first has...Read more

Panerai Luminor 8 Days Set Pays Tribute to Early Stallone Models, January 20th

Twenty years ago, Hollywood action hero Sylvester Stallone commissioned a pair of watches from then-obscure watch brand Officine Panerai, and neither the brand, nor the watch world at large, has been the same since. Panerai marks this milestone at SIHH ...Read more

SIHH 2016: Panerai Merge Timeless Design & Modern Technology
D'Marge, January 19th

D'Marge is reporting live from Geneva to bring you the latest releases from the world's premiere luxury watch exhibition, SIHH 2016. Taking a bold step in the right direction at this year's show is Panerai with a fresh take on their timeless and...Read more